The Bible says more about this case of conversion than any of the others. The story is not told in just one text, but it is found in Acts 9:1-22, Acts 22:1-16 and Acts 26:4-18. Let's consider Saul's former way of life, the appearance on the road, the messenger and the message that was sent to Saul.
Saul's Former Way of Life
All three texts tell something about how Saul lived before his conversion.
- He was a Hebrew a Pharisee (Acts 22:3; 26:5; Phil. 3:5). Before Agrippa he testified, "according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee" (Acts 26:5). He later referred to himself as a Hebrew of Hebrews.
Saul was a very religious man. But, he was wrong in his religion. Even though he was living a strict religious life and was a descendant of Abraham he was not a child of God.
- He was educated (Acts 22:3). Saul was highly educated. He had been trained at the feet of Gamaliel. He was taught "according to the strictness of our father's law."
Though educated, he was still in sin. Sin is not a problem just to the ignorant and unlearned. Those with college educations and PhDs are also guilty of sin (Rom. 3:23). Someone once said that an uneducated man may steal a car. If you send him to college he may steal the factory. Whether educated or not, all men face the same problem of sin.
- He was zealous (Phil. 3:6). His zeal and enthusiasm lead him to be active in what he thought to be right. He had a zeal without knowledge (Rom. 10:3). This trait would be useful in the kingdom of God if he would only couple some understanding with his excitement.
- He was conscientious (Acts 23:1; 26:9). Even though he was fighting against the Lord's work, he was doing what he thought was right. He lived in all good conscience. This reminds us that one's conscience can be wrong. Sincerity is not enough. Saul was sincere, but wrong.
- He persecuted the church (Acts 7:58; 8:1; 9:1-2; 22:4-5; 26:9-I1). He held the coats for those who stoned Stephen. He made havoc of the church dragging men and women off to prison. He breathed out threats and murder against God's people. He had cast his vote that some should be put to death.
After his conversion we see a different man with a different attitude. This is a powerful message about how people can change. It is a message about how the "chief of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15) can turn to God and be forgiven.
The Appearance On The Road
- What he saw and heard (Acts 9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). As Saul journeyed on the road to Damascus he saw a light shining from heaven that was as bright as the noon sun. He heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?" Saul answered, "Who are You, Lord?" The Lord replied, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting." Saul asked the Lord what he would have him to do. He was then instructed to go into the city and it would be told to him what he should do.
- He was called to go to the Gentiles (Acts 26:16-18). Paul explained to Agrippa that the Lord appeared to him to send him to the Gentiles to turn them from darkness to light, from Satan unto God. Having seen the Lord, he is now qualified to be an apostle of the Lord (Acts 1:22).
- What happened on the road convinced him of the resurrection of Christ. Seeing and hearing the resurrected Lord was evidence that he was no longer in the tomb. This is the only thing that can explain the complete change in Saul's life. If he was not convinced, then why does he start pro-claiming his resurrection and even preach it to Agrippa?
- Saul was not saved on the road to Damascus. Many think that Saul was saved when he saw the Lord. If he was saved on the road to Damascus, he was the most miserable saved man for he didn't eat or drink for the next three days (Acts 9:9). If he was saved. Ananias didn't know it for he told him to wash away his sins (Acts 22:16). If he was saved, he was saved without calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). If he was saved, he was saved while still in his sins (Acts 22:16).
The Messenger And His Message
- Ananias was sent (Acts 9:10-16). God sent a gospel preacher named Ananias to Saul. Ananias was concerned having heard of what Saul had done to God's people. God assured the preacher that Saul was a chosen vessel and he was on his way.
- Ananias restored Saul's sight (Acts 9:12, 17-18). When Ananias arrived he put his hands on Saul and immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see again.
- The message of Ananias (Acts 22:16). When this preacher comes, Saul is praying. So he begins by asking, "And now why are you waiting?" You see, to do anything (even something religious) other than what God wants the sinner to do to be saved, is waiting or "tarrying" (KJV). I also learn from this that prayer on the part of the alien sinner (such as at the mourner's bench) is not part of God's plan for removing man's sin. If so, why did he instruct Saul to stop praying and do something else?
His message continued, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord," From this I learn: (a) that baptism is essential to wash away our sins, (b) the urgency of baptism for he was to quit praying and arise and be baptized and (c) obeying the commands of the Lord (such as baptism) is how one calls on the name of the Lord.
Saul was saved the same way that you and I are saved. Do you believe in the Lord? Have you decided to turn from sin in repentance? Would you be willing to acknowledge your faith in him? Then, I ask you, why are you waiting? Arise, be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 11, p. 14-15
June 3, 1993